Fred D. Miller

in Nature, Justice, and Rights in Aristotle's Politics

Published in print May 1997 | ISBN: 9780198237266
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598043 | DOI:

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Although past commentators saw Aristotle as recognizing the rights of individuals, recent interpreters have objected that no single Greek word corresponds to the modern word ‘rights’. In reply, it is shown with evidence from Aristotle and other writers that the ancient Greek discourse of law and politics included distinct locutions corresponding to the different senses of ‘rights’ distinguished by the jurist W. N. Hohfeld: to dikaion corresponds to Hohfeld's claim right, exousia to a liberty or privilege, kurios to authority or power, and adeia and ateleia to immunity (compare also akuron). A right for Aristotle is essentially a just claim that a person has against other members of the same community, and a natural right is a just claim based in nature. Recent arguments that rights have theoretical implications inimical to Aristotle's principles are also found to be unpersuasive, because they rely on tendentious assumptions that would rule out many modern theories of rights as well. The chapter also indicates how a respect for the rights of others might be justified on the basis of Aristotelian practical wisdom.

Keywords: Aristotle; authority; justice; law; nature; practical wisdom; rights

Chapter.  24661 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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